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Surprise From Senegal


Unknowns in this World Cup no more, the cagey Lions of Senegal, thanks to a sudden-death goal by Henri Camara against Sweden on Sunday at Oita, Japan, now have something to put on their calling cards.

Senegal, World Cup quarterfinalist.

Senegal, the first African team since Cameroon in 1990 to qualify for the final eight in a World Cup.

Senegal, a 2-1 second-round winner over Sweden and never a loser in a World Cup match ...

That last item comes with a disclaimer: Senegal is 2-0-2 all-time in World Cup games, because until three weeks ago, Senegal had never played a World Cup game.

The Lions are making history in a hurry. Having beaten 1998 champion France in their debut, they have now enabled Africa to beat South America to the 2002 quarterfinals. That's a statistic worth mulling: Africa has a team in the final eight and South America has only one team left in the tournament--Brazil, which plays Belgium in a second-round match Monday in Kobe, Japan.

World Cup rookies aren't supposed to knock off defending champions, they aren't supposed to beat veteran teams such as Sweden in the second round, and they most certainly aren't supposed to score the golden goal in their first World Cup overtime appearance.

"We are seeing the birth of a great team," Senegal Coach Bruno Metsu said after watching his squad advance on the first sudden-death--or golden--goal of the tournament, Camara's 104th-minute strike past Swedish goalkeeper Magnus Hedman.

"We are very happy to have beaten this strong Sweden team. Sweden had gone 16 matches without a loss. Senegal is happy to have beaten Sweden in the 17th match."

Senegal had to rally to do so. Sweden's Henrik Larsson scored his third goal of the tournament, a header, in the 11th minute. With their experienced defense ready to clamp down on a Senegal team depleted by the suspensions of midfielders Salif Diao and Khalilou Fadiga, Sweden seemed poised to turn that goal into a trip to the final eight.

But Senegal's speed and attacking style kept the pressure on the Swedish defense until Camara, in the 37th minute, turned a small crack into a 1-1 tie. Chesting down a pass, Camara dribbled through three defenders before beating Hedman on a low attempt.

Sweden spent the rest of the game squandering chances--and was unlucky not to win in overtime, when Anders Svensson's shot banged the post minutes before Camara's second and game-ending goal. Crushed, the Swedes reacted to the heartbreaking defeat like, well, Swedes.

"It must be so happy for them," midfielder Pontus Farnerud said of Senegal. "But not for us, of course."

Added Larsson: "This is a marvelous tournament. Although I'm not happy, I am grateful to the Japanese supporters. Sayonara!"

With the victory, Senegal advances to a quarterfinal match against the winner of the Japan-Turkey second-round game. Cameroon in 1990 was the first African nation to play in a World Cup quarterfinal, losing to England. Senegal is the second--and it can become the first to reach the semifinals with one more victory.

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